Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Filmed theatre: A Delicate Balance

We are now looking at some theatre on film - after Tennessee and NIGHT OF THE IGUANA below - now for Edward Albee and A DELICATE BALANCE, then on to Arthur Miller and A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE and then O'Neill and LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT ....

A DELICATE BALANCE is one of those 'American Film Theatre' portentous productions from the early 70s, 1973 actually (I also have their version of Simon Grey's BUTLEY with Alan Bates (see Bates label), whom I saw play it on stage, with the addition of Jessica Tandy for the film version, also 1973).  
In Connecticut, Agnes and Tobias are an upper-class married couple whose relationship has been uneasy for many years, since at least the time their son died; but they've managed to find a certain comfortable pattern of uneasiness. Agnes's sister, Claire, lives with them and insists that her perpetual drinking is not alcoholism but willfulness. Their daughter, Julia, poised to have her fourth divorce, has come back home. Unexpectedly, her room has been taken over by Harry and Edna, best friends of Tobias and Agnes. Seized by a nameless terror that propelled them out of their own house, Harry and Edna have decided to stay. 

It was Albee's first Pulitzer Prize winning play and examines those middle-class Americans he scrutinised so well in WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLFA DELICATE BALANCE  may be a rather more cerebral play, which had Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn in the 1966 stage production. Set in well to do Connecticut (though director Tony Richardson filmed it at a house in South London) we observe Agnes and Tobias at their dinner, she rings the bell for coffee - it is all terribly ordered and well to do and seems a rather chilly marriage. 
Lee & Kate on both magazine covers
Then their best friends Harry and Edna (Joseph Cotten and the ever-excellent Betsy Blair) arrive not just for a visit but seeking refuge as though from an unknown terror, and they later decide to get their things and move in with them to the consteration of the hosts, whose daughter, expertly played by Lee Remick, arrives after the collapse of her fourth marriage, at age 36. She expects her old room back which Harry and Edna have taken over, and gets more and more hysterical, endlessly smoking and causing scenes. Then there is Claire (Kate Reid - replacing an ailing Kim Stanley) Agnes's ever-present alcoholic sister, with her accordion !  How this worked in the theatre I am not sure, but it makes for a fascinating if rather boring intially film. However it livens up when Remick is emoting and we wonder how it is all going to end. It is all darkly comic as it explores our capacity for love and compassion, friendship and family. It is an interesting late entry in Tony Richardson's filmography.
Hepburn seems to be playing a version of herself - one can see glimpses too of her Eleanor of Aquitaine here. Good to see her paired with another English great, as she was with Ralph Richardson in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY ... (and with Olivier of course in that Cukor telefilm LOVE AMONG THE RUINS in 1976). It is touching seeing Remick as the over-wrought daughter here. In that 1988 "Films in Review" interview I mentioned recently (Remick label) she mentioned how as a young actress she spent an evening with Hepburn and Tracy back in 1955, when she up was up for a small part in DESK SET (played by Dina Merrill) - Kate's idea was that she should take small parts to get noticed, while Tracy suggested she should wait for the right introduction, which she did with A FACE IN THE CROWD in '57. 
Then in 1962 Hepburn and Remick were both up for Best Actress, in maybe that best ever year for nominees, with Davis, Page and winner Bancroft. Here they are again here in 1973 both never less than mesmerising. 

Remick was later paired with Scofield again in that 1977 BBC 'Play Of The Month': 
Henry James' THE AMBASSADORS, which we may never get to see again now, as my post on that (also at Remick label).   

More Lee Remick soon: THE EUROPEANS / HENNESSY / TRIBUTE / EMMA'S WAR & her 1970 TV series JENNIE

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